TL;DR:books and thoughts about them.
I’ve been inspired by Joe Hill’s quest last year to read 52 books in a year. My first thought was, “A BOOK A WEEK? Impossible.” He pulled it off and when he answered the FAQ of how he said that he sets aside an hour two a day to just read. This makes the most sense to me because he’s a writer and what better research to do for writing other than living would be reading. I don’t want to make such a lofty goal of 52 books in a year, but I’ll certainly tally up all the books I read by the end of this year and see where I land. I think I’m already ahead of last year.
Sometimes I write, so it only makes sense for me to sometimes read. I’ve not been as voracious a reader as I used to be. At least up until a little over a year ago when I realized how easy it was to read book on my phone. I don’t limit myself to digital, though, I’ll read anything I can get my hands on, so long as it supports my mood.
I don’t normally read books multiple times, but there have been a few that I could count on the same hand. Slaughterhouse Five is one of the modern classics that I had originally read back in my early college days. Insert joke about that being a loooooooong time ago, because aging jokes are hilarious and whippersnappers with the piercings and the hair and the clothes... It’s a book about war. About how a man deals with the war. About how he deals with the war affects his family and the rest of his life. This book includes death (so it goes), catch phrases about death (so it goes), sex, aliens and time travel, all my favorite reading familiars. Prior to re-reading this book I was thinking back to when I first heard that Kurt Vonnegut had died.
I was driving down a dark highway on my way home from work, my then-current girlfriend in the car with me (we worked in the same building). The news came up on the radio and I didn’t quite hear it fully, was probably talking about some silly customer from the shop that day when my girlfriend said, “Did you just hear that? Kurt Vonnegut died.” My response must have been lackluster or so it seemed by the look on her face after I said “Oh, that sucks.” “That’s all you have to say? This prolific writer of such classics as...*names of books I didn’t know at the time*...and all you have for that is ‘that sucks?” I suppose, ‘so it goes’ would have been a more succinct and appropriate but I was still on top of the stairs for the night. I dropped her off at home across town, drove back to my folks place where I was living at the time. I got out of the car, walked up the path to the door when I noticed a large bright light shining on the roof of the house. My memory says it was a helicopter searchlight though my memory is like swiss cheese with Deep Space Nine sized worm holes in the middle. I don’t remember going into the house that night nor much of anything else. Swiss cheese. Wormholes. So it goes. Consider that this actual conversation occurred 12 years ago, maybe longer, while also considering Kurt Vonnegut died 5 years ago. If only I could remember the future. So it goes.
1984 or Nineteen Eighty-Four is a great book. I thought I had read it when I was younger, but about two chapters in I realized everything I knew about the book was anecdotal. Comedians speaking to the proles in the audience, Proletariat being a shop in a mall, Big Brother watching us from everywhere. All these things ingrained into our society from a book written about a year that feels like today, but written about 60 years ago. Surveillance, and sometimes today’s willful surveillance makes me itch. I’m a contributor to the same disease sometimes with my phone and social media, but I still worry about how much information I’m putting out there about myself, my whereabouts, or the whereabouts of my friends and loved ones. Privacy seems to be a shrinking stretch of beach with the waves of CCTV, Where I Am apps, and social networks breaking gently over the sand, retreating slowly and then coming back with a higher tide.
Why this book wasn’t taught to us in high school I’ll never know. Maybe I had the choice but don’t remember giving up that option. With the right teacher this would make for some interesting discussion, especially in today’s technological age. Two way telescreens in the book equate easily to iOS’s Facetime, Microsofts’s Kinect, Playstation’s Eye/Move, or even Skype. There were two parts of this book that were a bit drawn out for me, especially considering one particular twist at the end made a couple chapters of the book seem pretty much irrelevant. But those sections aside, I really liked this book, it hit home with me on multiple levels. Hopefully everyone can read this book when it holds as much meaning to them as it does to me.
Last year’s books that I remember:
A Storm of Swords
Ready Player One
The Hunger Games Trilogy
The Dark Tower
A Feast for Crows
Homeland -- Little Brother’s sequel
House of Leaves
Locke and Key
On the list to start reading:
Brave New World
Already finished this year:
The Girl Who Would Be King
Re: Why My Mom Locks the House
So I grew up mostly rural, in a town that didn’t have its own high school and which was at least 30 minutes away from anything you’d really like to be doing when you’re a kid. And by kid I mean a 15 year old without the means to transport one’s self the said 30 minutes. So we made do with what was accessible to our bikes, our parents’ will to drive across many towns and back, or what was in my mom’s pantry. Which was where my friend Katie and I were standing that fateful night as we searched with intense concentration for the perfect item to hurl at cars.
It was hard to narrow it down as there was a plethora of viable options. Our first genius idea was of course flour, because of its hilarious and long spreading ‘poof’ factor. But we decided against it as we had already used it earlier in one of several box fan experiments on the porch. So we went with the next best thing, elbow macaroni. It was in an 80’s-era Tupperware, clearly not made to haul through the woods, and then our destination, a cliffling overlooking desolate Route 4. But before we headed out, we had a last minute stroke of genius and decided to grab some ketchup for a nice splatter effect.
We got the giggles almost from the get-go. I mean, just the thought of those tiny macaronis hitting unsuspecting windshields at 12 o’clock at night, their little crunchy tinkles maximizing hilarity with every hit! It was a miracle we didn’t wake my mom and send her thundering down the stairs screaming at our late-night antics. But we made it out the door and started on our mission, setting up camp on the north-bound side, pre-prepping both of our hands with generous helpings of macaroni, ready for our first victim patron to pass by. It took quite a while, because it was late at night, and like I said, it was mostly rural. But come they finally did, and we showered those cars with a heaping storm of mystery macaroni!*
However, our escape did not go unnoticed, and my mom was now hollering our names, neighbors-be-damnedly into the night. We immediately dumped the evidence in the woods and made our way home, nonchalantly moseying our way up the porch steps as my mom stared down at us in silent fury. We explained we were merely out for a walk around the little cul-de-sac we lived on, as we needed some good old-fashioned fresh air. She actually bought it**, but not without a good minute of stink-eye as we made our way back up the stairs to my bedroom. We had a great big laugh before bed and recounted tales of our charitable deed until we fell asleep.
*Thankfully it didn’t cause a serious accident or road rage-induced, newspaper-worthy event.
**Gave less of a fuck,
It wasn’t until the next time my mom went to make pasta salad that she (and I, because I had totes forgotten about that night) noticed the macaroni was missing. And for whatever reason, she immediately concluded that the macaroni was stolen in the night, along (and especially) with it’s expensive Tupperware “part-of-a-gawd-damned-set” container, and that it was just what this town was coming to these days, and how she was locking the door from here on out and would just now seriously consider keeping her car keys in the house. As opposed to in the car’s ignition.* Bitch teenage disposition kicked in strong and bristled at the opportunity to fuck with my mom and prove her wrong. I ached to argue with her lack of logic, knowing full well that it would totally incriminate my ass. Then in a game-saving, knee-jerk, totally subconscious miracle, I decided NOT to point out her obvious flaws in thinking. I instead lied my ass off, and it only came off convincing because really, what would I realistically do with a Tupperware and it’s macaroni?! That’s just proves how messed up powerfully awesome our choice of pastimes and projectiles were, utterly inconceivable to most people anyone. And that’s how it came to pass that my mom began locking the door to the house, both when we left and when we went to bed.
*That didn’t come for another handful of years and was in no way related to me or my friend Katie. So there!
(May contain SPOILERS if you haven’t beaten the game. I can’t promise anything.)
This game is fun.
I’ve read a few reviews on QC that said they didn’t want to compare the game to Portal. Kim Swift worked on Portal. Kim Swift worked on Quantum Conundrum. THERE ARE MANY SIMILARITIES. But as critical gamers, we examine those similarities and differences and allow the game to shine within its own light.
Like Portal, this is a first person perspective game that doesn’t equip you with a gun to shoot monsters. You use your “glove” to change the physical properties of the rooms you are solving puzzles in. Another similarity is an unseen character voice that talks you through the labyrinthine corridors of the game. John de Lancie, who plays your eccentric scientist uncle, is also known as Q from Star Trek: TNG, coincidence much?
“Change the physical properties how?”, you probably didn’t ask. Reversing gravity is one, though it doesn’t affect you, it just affects the “loose” objects in the room (boxes, books, tables, chairs.) The heavy effect makes objects in the room weigh more, thus allowing you to weigh-down pressure plates. Then there is the Fluffy dimension, did I mention you are going into new dimensions yet? Fluffy makes heavy things lighter, so you can lift them or throw them or use them as a pillow for nap time. And finally, my favorite is Time Slow Mode, or Bullet Time or what I like to use to stop myself from hitting my head on the ceiling when I’m in reverse gravity mode. All of these dimensional shifts are used to solve various puzzles to further your progress through the game.
Switching among each dimension is the name of the game, or at least the idea behind the gameplay. Portal allowed you or your Companion Cube to traverse the landscape from Point A to Point B. (In a perfect world I would insert a video here of Sam Neill from Event Horizon explaining the shortest distance between Point A and Point B.) In QC the quickest route between two points is probably walking there. Or maybe toggling gravity while you are standing on top of an old school combination safe. Try it with a couch, the game even made the couch surfing joke.
The few faults I find with the game center around minor nitpicks that seem like they should have been found during a few rounds of QA studies. Things like audio triggers happening to alert you to something in the room that was obvious as you entered. (Maybe the player is dazzled by the awesomely laid out table and chairs and books that were in the previous 50 rooms and they were too distracted to notice.) Puzzle elements being repeated too close to each other. I understand the need to reinforce the idea of “Hey, you need to do this again later”, but one right after the other and then spread across the more difficult puzzles starts to feel like a chore. One thing they tried to do right in QC that Portal missed out on was the elimination of loading screens. Unfortunately as the game is loading on the fly between levels in 1 of 100 slightly different but mostly the same hallways, the game stutters. It seems pretty obvious the game world is being forgotten behind you, but is being preloaded in front of you. Portal’s elevator rides did get a little monotonous at times when the levels were over within 2-3 mins, but I’m curious if QC just took those shafts and turned them on their sides. One final Portal similarity for this review, the song sung during the credits, “Flip a Switch” is performed by The Presidents of the United States of America’s very own Chris Ballew.
--Played on PC through Steam and I’m eagerly anticipating the DLC.
So we finally got out to visit Abi and Joe in Denver, Colorady. We got to fly there. I always feel so important whenever I get to fly. This time was no exception, especially because we brought 8 nips along for the ride. The second part, and also the longest flight of the trip, was spent in the company of an entire rugby team. It wasn't smelly. This meant there was loud cheering during take-off, hand raising any time there was turbulence and a Puck-from-Glee mohawk. We drove through lightning to get there for Pete’s sake, and it was worth every minute!
We landed at 1:30am EST, but we had traveled back in time to 11:30pm and walked through, unwittingly, through a behemoth teepee circus tent of an airport. You had to take a flipping tram to the baggage claim, and Abi had called it “jazzy train”, which made sense once the doors closed and we were flooded with the most stereotypical elevator song in all of ever. Then the recorded message from the Mayor played and three minutes later we got out to get our bags.
As we drove away we finally noticed how circusy but especially sprawling Denver International was. Then we were welcomed to the city of Denver by a blue-metallic death horse with glowing red eyes. It literally killed the man who was commissioned to weld this effing thing! I guess it’s coming down soon, maybe in the next year. It all adds to the whole “haunted Mormon” feel of the whole place. What with their crazy gas-mask wearing, bayonette-wielding-soldier-hunting-hiding-children-encircled-by-a-rainbow mural painted right on the g-d walls! But here we were. It was a great feeling.
I stayed up waaay later than I thought possible. We drove through the suburban sprawl to Abi and Joe’s place. They live off Colfax, or the Fax as the locals (Abi) calls it. You can get anything on the Fax, a shower curtain at midnight and a prostitute at 8am. All the necessities! We arrived to a nice little brick house, very welcoming, awesomely furnished by craigslist. I was regaled with tales of their yard which collects a menagerie of things, and in Abi’s 3-hour absence while she picked us up at the airport, it had collected a shredded baby diaper. Other notable items found in said yard; a bag of weed. I somehow managed to stay up to almost 4am and retired to the most epic of guest rooms.
And there you have day one of the ole trip out west. Part Two to arrive in a shortly!